Washington DC
27 March 2017
Reporter: Mark Dugdale

Copyright leadership role a target of reform


Legislation has been introduced in Congress to make the head of the US Copyright Office a presidential appointee.

The House of Representatives judiciary committee, led by chair Bob Goodlatte, introduced the Register of Copyrights Selection and Accountability Act on 23 March.

Under proposed bill, the head of the Copyright Office, known as the register of copyrights, would be a presidential appointee subject to Senate confirmation. Terms would be limited to 10 years, although they would be renewable.

Goodlatte, along with the bill’s co-sponsors, said in a joint statement: “America’s creativity is the envy of the world and the Copyright Office is at the centre of it. With the current register serving only on an acting basis, now is the time to make changes to ensure that future registers are transparent and accountable to Congress.”

“We must ensure that any new register is a good manager and fully qualified to lead and make this office more operationally effective as he or she continues to directly advise Congress on copyrights. The next register of copyrights should be dedicated to serving all stakeholders in the copyright ecosystem.”

Maria Pallante stepped down from the role in 2016, declining offers for a new position as senior adviser for digital strategy. Karyn Temple Claggett is acting head of the Copyright Office.

The Copyright Office has been a target for reform for years. Goodlatte and the House judiciary committee have been considering changes since 2013, and said in December last year that its management was a top priority following extensive discussions with stakeholders.

Chris Dodd, chairman and CEO of the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA), welcomed the introduction of the legislation.

He said: “The MPAA applauds the introduction in the House of bipartisan legislation making the register of copyrights a position nominated by the president and confirmed by the Senate. The existing structure was created more than 120 years ago. Since then, the American creative economy has seen exponential growth—and now employs more than 5.5 million US workers, while contributing more than $1.2 trillion to GDP.”

“Importantly, the legislation will enable the American people and all interested parties to provide input through their elected officials into the selection of the register. Once this targeted legislation is enacted, Congress will be able to focus on the broader task of modernising the Copyright Office.”

Members of Congress reintroduced bipartisan legislation last month aimed at modernising the Copyright Office and housing it under the legislative branch of government.

Tom Marino and Judy Chu reintroduced the Copyright Office for the Digital Economy (CODE) Act on 8 February. The improvements housed in the act would include ongoing technology studies to ensure the office remains current with technology, the establishment of an advisory board and technical provisions to ensure a seamless transition away from the Library of Congress.

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